What does liquor privatization mean for PA?

One part of Governor Tom Corbett’s budget proposal is privatizing the state’s liquor system. In the plan he is proposing the sale of more 1,200 different wine and spirit licenses. Governor Corbett hopes the bill is quickly approved. “It’s likely that it will work it’s way through the House of Representatives and then head over to the State Senate for their consideration,” said Lt. Governor Jim Cawley. “In pretty short order, because it’s the Governor’s desire that we conclude all this on or before June 30th, which is the date that we are constitutionally required to pass the budget as well.”

If passed, the legislation would immediately go into effect. “July first or whenever the legislation goes into effect, what you will see right away, is going into a restaurant that currently has a liquor license you’ll be able to enjoy a bottle of wine in that restaurant, and if you want to purchase another one to take home , you’ll now be able to do that,” said Cawley. “What you will see over time is the gradual introduction of beer and wine in grocery stores and in pharmacies, and beer in convenience stores and in larger box stores you will see beer and wine. We’ll be working through that whole process both with the private sector and with the LCB to make it as soon as possible. It depends on how quickly it is passed and how quickly stores move toward an application, and the applications are granted. So obviously it would be over a series of several months.”

The legislation would allow an unlimited number of grocery stores and pharmacies to sell beer and wine. An unlimited number of convenience stores will be able to sell beer. Box stores and beer distributors will be able to sell beer and wine, and if they successfully acquire a license, they will be able to sell spirits as well.

Another change includes case rules. “What you will see is the ability of four six packs of four different brands of beer, this is currently something the beer distributors are not allowed to do. You’ll be able to do that to make up your own cases,” said Cawley.

Under the plan thousands of state workers will likely lose their jobs. “For 5,000 people who work at the PLCB, 3,500 of them are members of the United Food & Commercial Workers, it will mean the loss of their jobs,” said John Meyerson, director of legislation and political action for United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1776. He says the plan will cost people their jobs and more. “Right now Pennsylvania has the lowest rate of alcohol morbidity in the country. We think that the system we have now is keeping Pennsylvania safer. The governor’s plan will increase outlets you know, tenfold.”

Meyerson says the state can provide more convenience, “We would like to see more Pennsylvania wine and spirit shops inside supermarkets, next to beer distributors, in communities where they have BYOB restaurants.”